"You're free, but you're not free, because you've got money to make.You can't say no I don't want to do this, especially when it's young girls." Despite the uncertainty involved in moving to the other side of the globe and the nightmare stories of crime and human trafficking, the dancers say the money is a magnet, and the country of destination doesn't even matter.Several Cape Town strip clubs have in recent years been linked to the local mafia, and there are numerous stories about club owners confiscating dancers' passports and charging them exorbitant fees under threat of legal action if a debt is not paid off.
One country is easiest [to get into] right now, there is a flood of girls, then boom, the laws change, and the current moves elsewhere. Girls were just flooding the place because your visa was ready in six days.
But every year it gets more and more difficult," she said. They're clean, they love their husbands, and they're just there to get paid." Stripping itself is a proper skill, Natasha added: a rigorous performance art that, when done well, demands as much precision and strength as any other type of professional dancing. "It's a very beautiful kind of art if you do it the proper way." Still, the sisters admit that the work necessitates a certain degree of moral flexibility and was at times traumatizing. "The hard part is to approach the client and make him like you and want to buy an expensive product that you sell, which is a private dance.
"It was a step up from Ukraine, but still very hard while we were helping our family," Masha said.
"We were surviving again, and yes we had something to eat, but it still wasn't good." One of their friends was stripping in Europe, and "there was a moment where we decided to join," Natasha said.
Afterward, Fiona redresses herself backstage in a sheer negligee and strolls through the club, chatting up the men scattered around tables sipping beer, until she takes one by the hand and leads him to another section for a private dance.
Fiona, a 28-year-old from Moldova, will pocket 800 rand () for a 15-minute lap dance here at Mavericks, the biggest strip club in Cape Town.Even after paying employment fees to the club, her tips can add up to 50,000 to 100,000 rand (,700-,300) a month during the busy tourist season: more than she could ever expect to earn in her home country, she said."Why would I stay in Moldova and fight to be able to feed myself when I can work here?Dating Russian women is something a lot of men from western countries dream about.But, because of the aura of stereotypes that haunts Russian ladies, rarely dating turns out to be fruitful."We have a beautiful family, but the situation [in Ukraine] was tough, especially at the end of the '90s when we left," said Natasha, who grew up in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. I wanted something different." Natasha dropped out of school at 16 and moved to Turkey in search of work, followed several years later by her younger sister, Masha.